Daily Archives: October 2, 2014

The absurd extremities of the public financing law

The Vermont Democratic Party, having lopsidedly endorsed Prog/Dem Dean Corren as its candidate for Lieutenant Governor, seems to be doing all it can to strip away any value from that endorsement.

The Vermont Democratic Party this week sent glossy color mailings to reliably Democratic voters, urging them to vote for its slate of statewide candidates. But Corren wasn’t mentioned.

Dean Corren at the Democratic State Committee meeting in September.

Dean Corren at the Democratic State Committee meeting in September. Photo courtesy of… well… me.

When the Democratic State Committee endorsed Corren, party officials made it clear that there were significant restrictions on their ability to offer him any tangible support — voter data, Coordinated Campaign, etc. — because by accepting public financing, Corren had to forswear all other fundraising avenues. Including in-kind support. Indeed, they said they would have adhered to the same limits if the Democratic hopeful, John Bauer, had qualified for public financing.

The Dems were advised by their lawyers to steer clear of anything that might run afoul of the law. Which allowed them to circumvent questions about the wisdom of sharing the party’s legendary database with a Progressive, who might then share it with his party. A valid concern, when the Progressive Party often runs candidates against Democrats.

But to exclude any mention of Dean Corren from mailings? To me, that seems an excess of caution. And a serious handicap for his campaign.

And while Corren was in full agreement with the Dems on their withholding of voter data and the Coordinated Campaign, he seems less satisfied with this move:

Corren said he’s prevailing upon Democratic officials to include him on the next round of mailings.

“The conversations go on,” Corren said. “We’re in the midst of conversations. So it’s not like it’s a one-shot deal.”

Corren has dutifully played nice, and I commend him for that. But excluding Corren from a mass mailing, to me, is stretching the legal point. It raises doubts about the Dems’ real motives.

I’ve been told that the Dems don’t want to turn “tangible assistance” into an issue for Phil Scott; but issues like that are inside baseball, and have little or no effect on voters. Maybe the risk is small enough to merit the potential reward.

At the very least, it points out a serious shortcoming with the public financing law. The qualification standards need to be loosened, so more candidates can qualify. And, apparently, there needs to be a better definition of “tangible assistance” so that parties don’t have to pretend that one of their own doesn’t exist, just because s/he qualified for public financing.

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In the pursuit of objectivity, the truth is often a casualty

One of the faults of contemporary journalism is its tendency to bend over backwards in the name of “balance.” You have to represent both sides, even if it means including a climate change denier. You have to quote Annette Smith in any coverage of wind turbines, or Darcie Johnston in any piece about health care reform. And you have to pretend that a one-sided campaign is competitive before Election Night because it’d be “unfair” to the obvious loser.

Submitted for your approval, from the Freeploid’s political tag team of Terri Hallenbeck and Nancy Remsen (or, quite possibly, from their timorous editors):

Scott Milne, the Republican gubernatorial challenger who has been accused of getting off to a slow start, showed a surge in his fundraising…

“Accused of getting off to a slow start,” eh?

“Accused”???

That’s not an accusation, it’s an observation. It’s plain fact. Scott Milne launched his campaign on the last possible day — the filing deadline. He left everybody up in the air until that afternoon. And in his first two months on the trail, he raised virtually zero money outside of his own family and that of his business partner David Boies III.

If I published a Lexicon of Political Terms, I’d use Scott Milne’s mugshot to accompany the definition of “slow start.”

We know that Milne reacts very badly to criticism of his campaign. I’ll bet he’s had some angry calls with Freeploid editors, and this excessive timidity is the result.

A rare bit o’ sunshine falls on Scott Milne’s shoulder

I have to admit, I didn’t think he had it in him. But Scott Milne did it: he actually had a solid fundraising effort in September.

It’s too little, too late to get him elected. But it’s a nice solid turnaround.

Mahatma’s October 1 campaign finance report shows that he raised $78,529 during September, plus $2,600 in “in-kind” contributions, for a total of $81,129.

Very respectable. And roughly double his fundraising total before September 1.

But wait, there’s more good news. As many Republicans were quick to point out, the vast majority of Milne’s money came from in-state donors. He also did extremely well with small donations, racking up 348 separate gifts of less than $100 each. He had a lot of donations in the $100-500 range, and relatively few top-dollar gifts. His total number of unique donors in September was almost 450, or abut 15 per day. Not bad at all.

There were a couple worms in the apple, of course. He’s spending money faster than he’s raising it, having laid out more than $95,000 in all. Which leaves him with a net balance of about $41,000. In terms of cash on hand, Governor Shumlin has a 26-to-1 advantage. It’s still Bambi vs. Godzilla.

Also, more than $38,000 of Milne’s fundraising came from himself or his immediate family. And he had earlier loaned his campaign a cool $25,000. Overall, he’s much better off than he was a month ago, but he’s nowhere near competitive financially.

My conclusion: This was a good month for Milne, but it’s inconsequential to the Shumlin machine. The person for whom this is really bad news is Dan Feliciano, the Libertarian candidate who’s hoping to steal a sizeable chunk of the Republican vote. Feliciano continued to fundraise in dribs and drabs, pulling in only about $3,500 last month.

Milne beat him handily. What that says to me is that, among Republican voters, the GOP brand still carries a lot of cachet. They will vote for the Republican candidate no matter what. And quite a few of them will give money to the Republican candidate no matter what.

It makes me think that Feliciano’s upside may be more limited than us politi-geeks had thought. We heard the insider buzz for Feliciano, and party apparatchiks’ palpable disdain for Milne, and projected Feliciano to take a decent chunk of conservative votes — perhaps driving him into the teens, percentage-wise. Milne’s latest finance report makes me think the Feliciano buzz is mostly confined to the insider crowd, and that the Republican grassroots are likely to stick with their party’s man — even if (especially if?) they don’t know who he is.

Which makes me think that Feliciano won’t get out of the single digits. Sure, he got into the teens in the August primary as a write-in candidate, but that was a very small, self-selected sliver of the broader electorate. He’ll have a very hard time matching that performance in November.

(Note: If Feliciano’s seemingly ill-considered 48-hour, $100,000 fundraising blitz actually succeeds, I’ll have to eat a bunch of my words. And I’d be happy to do so. But I’m not getting out the ketchup bottle just yet.)